|Vince Capano is a two time winner of the prestigious Quill and Tankard
writing award for humor from the North American Guild of Beer Writers.
Vince's column is now a regular feature of beernexus.com
Check back often for the next installment of
Vince's Adventures in Beerland
| Promo Guy Taps Out
by Vince Capano
Even mighty beer is staggering. Once considered recession proof, beer has now
joined a host of other products feeling the pinch of the consumers’ shirking dollar.
In the past 6 months overall sales of beer have dropped substantially relative to
wine and liquor sales. Now if you are a regular BeerNexus reader you’re probably
thinking that serves the Buds, Coors, and Millers of the world right. If they made
good beer instead of watery adjunct laden swill they wouldn’t have these
problems. Well, you’re right and wrong. You’re right because just released
statistics show that craft beer sales are still growing in market share. And you’re
wrong because that growth has dramatically slowed. Given this harsh reality it’s
no surprise that many breweries have re-emphasized promotion. And therein lays
my tale of the dueling promos.
It was a dark and stormy night (not really, but its fun to write something goofy just to
make my editor cringe) at The Tap Room in Warren, NJ. However this was not
just another Friday; it was a promo night for Franziskaner Weissbier. It seems
that even this world famous brew from Spaten-Franziskaner, a brewery in Munich
that dates back to the 14th century, felt the need to kick up sales. With a heritage
like that who wouldn’t expect the evening to be the mother of all promo nights. I’m
sure I wasn’t the only one at the bar who lamented not bringing several large
shopping bags for the glasses, t-shirts, and other such swag that we would surely
receive. Sadly, those worries were about as valid as wondering how I’d spend the
$100 million I was going to win in the lottery.
The Tap Room had been appropriately decorated with Franziskaner and Spaten
banners. The Spaten ones featured a malt shovel which makes sense since
Spaten in German means spade. The Franziskaner banners boasted a portly
monk, again a logical choice since the word itself means Fransiscan, as in the
religious order. If only their promo plans were as well thought out as their
The first tipoff that the evening would be more Frankenstein than Franziskaner
came when the brewery’s representative casually strolled in an hour and a half
after the scheduled starting time. Now that’s certainly excusable if he had flown in
directly from Germany but not good considering he lives in the neighboring town.
To his credit, promo guy immediately went into action mode – he found a seat at
the bar and ordered a beer. As the clocked ticked on those awaiting the
festivities began to get ticked off. Just as promo guy was finishing his second pint
he noticed two attractive ladies in the far corner drinking Franziskaner. It’s
understandable that it took awhile for him to see them since his vision was
definitely obscured by the dozen or so others at the bar also drinking
Franziskaner. In an instant he had joined the ladies pitching his siren call of
Bavaria beer; the promo has begun. Well to be accurate, the promo had begun
only for those (un)lucky two; the other Franziskaner drinkers in the main bar, the
outer lounge, the terrace area, and within a 1,000 miles radius were totally
invisible to promo guy.
Needless to say it was a bit satisfying to see promo guy get the classic brush off
from his female prey; his fate reaffirmed the truism that a promo guy becomes a
no-no guy if he doesn’t have any swag. Sorry, no free glasses, no t-shirts, no
posters, no beer mats, no anything for the ladies or anyone else. Of course most
of those answered with their own no – as in no Franziskaner.
Sadly, bad marketing had trumped good beer.
However in less than 24 hours my faith in the beer business was restored when I
saw good marketing promote good beer in a grass roots way. The place was the
Copper Mine, a relatively new pub in North Arlington, NJ. As I sat there on a lazy
Saturday afternoon a slender, bearded gentleman walked in and introduced
himself to the Copper Mine’s bartender as Brian Boak from, what else, the Boaks
Brewery. It seems that Mr. Boak is founder, president, treasurer, brewer,
salesman, distributor, and delivery truck driver, for his micro brewery. He should
give himself a raise.
Mr. Boak was there to deliver the Cooper Mine’s first order of Boaks beer but
decided to first stop in at the bar to have a pint. Something tells me this is one
guy who really enjoys his chosen career. As he sat down, Mr. Boak quietly put
several bottles of his beer on the bar and asked the bartender to have the patrons
sample them. Just like that, a simple delivery had been transformed into a promo
that the poor monks at Franziskaner could only have prayed for. Yes, a non-
promo by a one man outfit had, with one simple act, bested a professional promo
from a beer giant; it sounded like the plot of the next Rocky movie or at the very
least, Beer Wars II.
We sampled Boaks Double BW, a Belgium wheat with a touch of lemongrass. It
was a refreshing, low alcohol brew with a lemon zip that made it perfect on this hot
summer day. The other beer was Boaks Two Blink Monks, a Belgian Dubbel
loaded with rich malt, caramel, and raisin flavors.
Mr. Boak told us a bit about each beer, explained his brewing layout, and as a
good businessman, made sure we knew the retail outlets where we could buy his
beer in bottles. I promised myself to immediately (not literally, after all, I was at a
pub) buy as much as I could carry of the Two Blind Monks, an instant favorite.
One note on the Two Blind Monks, moderation is advised since drinking too many
of that strong brew would mean the monks wouldn’t be the only ones who are blind.
Mr. Boak said his goodbyes to all and went on with his delivery most likely not
seeing anything special in his short visit at the bar. But there he is mistaken. Just
as Pabst Blue Ribbon beer parlayed a grass roots marketing campaign into cult
status, Mr. Boak was doing the same only one beer drinker at a time. It’s a
strategy that bespeaks the best of American entrepreneurship.
A bit later I took a quick poll of the bar. Out of the seven people there six said they’
d buy Boaks beer when they saw it on tap and four of the six said they would seek
it out in the liquor stores. Now that’s one successful promotion.
And for the record, no one said they’d rather have a Franziskaner.
|Promo Guy Taps Out